Sa Boothroyd

Sa Boothroyd grew up on a mountainside in Vancouver. Instead of taking pre-law, pre-med or post-journalism like her older siblings, she concentrated on sports and drawing. On sunny afternoons, her parents and their friends would drink tea on the back lawn and ask Sa to perform for them. “Let’s see a round-off-back-handspring,” someone would say, and obediently Sa would run a few steps then fly into the air, twist upside down, and bounce back onto her feet. Although she was good at jumping through other people’s hoops, before she was much older she decided to interpret life in her own way.

Sa studied art at City and Guilds of London Art School. In her spare time she ran the London marathon and took up long-distance swimming. Although she thought she would specialize in painting, Sa discovered she enjoyed printmaking. “I realized that by printing editions—instead of making a one-off painting—I could pay my rent and have some shillings left over for tea and biscuits.” She developed her own style, which combines a wry sense of humor and drawing with her left (non-dominant) hand.

Sa finished art school in 1988, and with a large student debt, she moved to a small town in Quebec. She joined a co-op print shop and sold her woodblock prints and etchings at craft fairs and galleries in Canada, the USA, England, and Hong Kong. Val-David was a vibrant arts community. Her co-op, for example, hosted visiting artists from across Canada, who brought new ideas and techniques. One of her best experiences was when she became a visiting artist herself, spending a month in a print studio in Cape Dorset on Baffin Island. “The artists drew flat images, a primitive style of drawing. I felt as though I had found kindred spirits.”

Kids! Don’t let people tell you that you can’t make a living as an artist. After only eight years of crazy hard work, which included designing, printing, framing, and selling her art in craft shows and galleries, Sa paid off her student debt.

When her mother developed cancer, Sa moved back to BC. It was there she learned about open-water swimming and mountain biking. Sa points out, “I come up with some of my best ideas during long, tedious bike rides.”

Sa made her living from printmaking for 18 years until the chemicals became too much for her and she moved to painting in acrylics. Using drywall compound for texture, paint and collage, Sa’s work still has the whimsical quality of her prints but her pieces are larger and bolder. Her studio/gallery is a bright building at the end of the government dock in Gibson’s Landing, BC. She overlooks the working harbor and orcas occasionally cruise by. “I have the most beautiful studio, I love going to work.”

Sa has illustrated two books for Annick Press, both written by Claire Eamer: The World in Your Lunch Box: The Wacky History and Weird Science of Everyday Foods (2012) and Before the World Was Ready: Stories of Daring Genius in Science (Fall 2013). In both books, her quirky characters and droll sense of humor make reading them lots of fun. 

Sa has lived in BC for sixteen years now. Her mum is still going strong. Sa lives with her husband Jody and their two kids. The whole family bikes, canoes, kayaks, and picks blackberries. Some things don’t change: Sa still drinks a lot of tea and makes delicious scones early in the morning.

Annick Press books
illustrated by Sa Boothroyd